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23 October 2014

Vancouver, you stole my heart

After a hop, skip and quick flight from Regina, we landed in Vancouver.

I wish you could properly see the mountains we flew over, but you'll have to make do with my timelapse video that does a woefully bad job of the beautiful scenery...

We landed mid-afternoon to beautiful blue skies, and after refreshing ourselves made our way immediately to Granville Island, and the Granville Island Public Market that awaited us there.
Much like London's Borough Market, it's full of fresh fruit and veg, flowers and some of the tastiest cakes I think I've ever laid eyes on.
Stomachs rumbling, we hunted for a restaurant to satisfy our hunger, we settles on The Sandbar.

Nestled under the bridge that connects to downtown to the island, we were led out on to their terrace, past a full blown boat inside, and seated to watch the world go by.
Now let's get down to the important bit; the food.

We settled on some shrimp dumplings to start...
Although I would call these gyoza? Not sure of the difference myself; either way, dumplings or gyoza, they were damn delicious.

But nothing prepared me for my mains.
 These were possibly the biggest prawns I have ever seen in my entire life!

In a thai sauce, you can see why the West Coast is famous for its seafood. The prawns were full of flavour, and the scallops seared to perfection.

Charlotte equally chose well, with fish tacos that I was eyeing up myself from across the table.
Under the looming bridge, we could see why the restaurant was so popular. With good food and a fantastic location, we lingered to watch boats and tourists pootle along the river at their own pace, before catching the water taxi back to Downtown and wandering to our hotel.

Damn, Vancouver, you really stole my heart on the first night.

12 October 2014

Afternoon tea at Hotel Saskatchewan

Because afternoon tea should not be just confined to the UK, oh no it should not.

Hotel Saskatchewan is where the Queen stays whenever she's in town, so you know it's swanky.

Rocking up on the Friday, we were the only ones there at first, but hey, you can't keep the British from their afternoon tea! It's a gorgeous hotel with a luxurious feel. And if it's good enough for Her Majesty, it's good enough for Charlotte and I.

As we perused the menu, we got munching on our first course: fresh strawberries with chantilly cream. And I'll tell you this now; from now on, there is no other way that I want to be greeted in a restaurant.
 Charlotte, having been before, was excitedly telling me what to look forward to. And I must say, she was bang on the money for everything that she said was her favourite.
After a few minutes, we were greeted with this beauty.
 Although afternoon tea never looks like a lot, after the first couple of sandwiches you know you have to move on fin case you can't taste all the cakes. It's a very real fear indeed.

Everything was delicious and well made, and I was especially impressed with the strawberry butter, which must be spread over EVERYTHING.
 They even baked a perfect scone, which in my opinion is the sign of a good afternoon tea.
Bravely battling through, I devoured nearly everything, and at least trying a mouthful of those I knew I couldn't finish. The eclairs were my favourite especially, pumped full of chantilly cream and topped with lemon icing and fresh raspberries, it was mouthwateringly divine. And I made sure to eat every single last bite.

At only $28, this afternoon tea was an absolute bargain for its craft and taste alone, and the staff so helpfully you felt completely relaxed. In fact we stayed there till most of the other guests who came in had left, slowly making our way through the mountains of cake and tea.

Hotel Saskatchewan, you do a damn good afternoon tea.

7 October 2014

O Canada...

These are the only two words of the Canadian national anthem I know, and I think I was driving everyone slightly mad by either singing or humming them everyday under my breath until I arrived in Canada.

Finally the day arrived, and I was looking forward to reuniting with Charlotte again. All that stood between me and Regina now (where Charlotte is currently living), was a ten hour flight, five our stop over and another hour and a half flight. Easy, right? Yes, but terribly boring when travelling alone and you have no one to talk to or badger apart from a complete stranger next to you.

Upon arrival I was greeted with a long hug, 30 degree heat, and a massive burger, that I can't really remember anything about (thanks to jet lag).

The next day I woke up feeling refreshed and got to meet Charlotte's cat, Maple, properly.
Regina is pretty much slap bang in the middle of Canada, in the province (not state!) of Saskatchewan. As flat as the eye can see, with fields that seem to go on forever and ever, it's completely different to any city or place I had ever been before.

It didn't take, Charlotte long to show me the food highs of the Canadian culture whilst I was there - would there really be any other way for me to experience a new place? With highlights including breakfast at Denny's, smores, and poutine.
Saturday morning we hopped in the truck and drove down to Denny's (you really have to drive pretty much everywhere, and I mean everywhere). After having to ask the waitress come back because the breakfast menu was that big, I went for Moons Over My Hammy pretty much just for the name alone. It was a breakfast of carbs, and I dived in headfirst.
Oh, by the way, nearly everything comes with a side of some kind of cooked potato or bread, or both! Can't say I complained too much though.

Saturday also gave me the chance to dress up as a Mountie at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Centre, where Mounties all over Canada go to train. Because, why wouldn't you dress up when you're there? Unfortunately the hats had gone walkabouts, but I still got to try on a jacket.

Think I can rock the red?
As mentioned above, I also got to try out poutine, which I've been told, is a Canadian nation dish. Much akin to our fish and chips.

It contains chips, gravy and cheese curds. Now I know what you're thinking; 'what the hell are cheese curds?'. I ate the stuff, and I still couldn't tell you exactly what they are, but it tasted pretty good.
I went for chicken fajita topped poutine, and even though this is a fairly small size, I still couldn't finish it. But if you're going to Canada and looking for a place to try poutine - go for Smoke's, I've been reliably told they're one of the best for a poutine fix.
Another highlight in this whistle-stop tour of Regina, I also got to try s'mores.

Although I think these are more of an American invention (any Canadians out there, please correct me if I'm wrong), when we saw these on the menu I knew I had to save room somewhere to try them out.

Bringing out a little campfire of our own, we were presented with all the tools; Graham Crackers, marshmallows, and Hershey's milk chocolate.
 After toasting for a little while, the marshmallow turned golden on the outside, but gooey in the middle. Put together with a square of chocolate and the cracker basically equalled to fireworks in my mouth.

It was that good.
I can just about taste it from this image above.

It felt like a real campfire, until one of us in the group was playing a little too much with the fire, and the waitress took it away. I can't say I blame her.

So there you have it, my first post about Canada! I know a little broad at the moment, but these are just some of the bits and bobs that couldn't have made up a post by themselves.

Don't worry, I've got lots more in store!